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Can We, Can We All Get Along? Section 3

By Mark D. Roberts | Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Part 7 of series: The End of the Presbyterian Church USA? Revisited
Permalink for this post / Permalink for this series

In my last post I tried to explain the ideological and emotional motivation of those who support the ordination of gays and lesbians. They believe it’s a matter of justice, even divine justice.

For Opponents of Gay Ordination: A Matter of Righteousness

Those who oppose gay ordination see it as a matter of fundamental righteousness. It has to do with right and wrong, with right relationships and wrong relationships. Opponents of gay ordination base their moral judgments on their interpretation of the Bible’s teaching about sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular. For them, Scripture is abundantly clear about “fidelity and chastity.” Sex can be right only in the context of a monogamous marriage between a man and a woman. Sex outside of this relationship, whether it be homosexual or heterosexual, is sinful.

Those who regard all homosexual activity is sinful do not insist that persons with homosexual feelings cannot be ordained. They ask such people to live in chastity, just as they ask those who are heterosexual but unmarried. Moreover, opponents of gay ordination do not deny that homosexual Christians can be gifted for ministry. They do believe, however, that such people should live according to biblical righteousness. And this, in the view of gay ordination opponents, makes no room for homosexuality activity.

Even if you disagree with folks who oppose the ordination of active homosexuals, you must at least recognize that they aren’t necessarily crazy or bigoted or homophobic. The vast majority of Christians throughout history have believed that homosexual behavior is wrong. And the vast majority of Christians throughout the world today still believe this. Some of these people may have been motivated by ignorance or meanness. But many have come to their conclusion prayerfully and with genuine compassion for gay and lesbian people. I know many parents who deeply love their gay or lesbian adult children, and who continue to have positive relationships with them even though they believe that their children are making wrong choices with regard to their sexual expression. Many of these parents would love to be able to affirm their children’s choices completely, but their commitment to Scripture precludes this option.

Christians who consider Scripture as their primary source for divine guidance usually conclude that homosexual behavior is always wrong. This isn’t a case of irresponsibly reading one’s own views willy-nilly into the text (even if it’s an incorrect reading of Scripture). Consider some basic evidence: Not one passage in the Bible speaks positively of homosexual behavior or gay relationships. Not one passage in the Bible provides a positive example of an active homosexual in leadership. Wherever Scripture speaks directly about homosexual behavior, it judges it to be wrong. Some gay advocates claim that the Bible doesn’t condemn sexual intimacy between loving, mature, committed persons of the same sex. But even if they’re correct, which I doubt, this leaves gay advocates who seek to base their position on Scripture with, at most, an argument from silence combined with many explicit counter-examples. That’s why most supporters of gay ordination do not base their position upon the Bible alone. It’s seems clear to me that those who see homosexual behavior as sinful are in line with the plain and consistent teaching of Scripture, even if, in the end, they’re wrong to regard all homosexual activity as sinful. (Of course those of us who hold this position don’t believe we are wrong.)

So, if the PCUSA were to ordain people who are engaging in homosexual behavior and who intend to keep on doing so (as opposed to repenting of it), then folks on the pro-righteousness side believe that the PCUSA would be endorsing sin. It would be a contradiction of biblical righteousness. It would be just as if the PCUSA allowed avowed racists to be ordained on the ground that racism is not always wrong. One cannot be committed to the PCUSA and to the belief that homosexual behavior is sinful and simply let the PCUSA approve of sin. Live and let live just won’t work here. Folks who oppose gay ordination are compelled by their commitment to the PCUSA and by their biblically-shaped moral convictions to fight against any allowance for gay ordination. Their perception of biblical righteousness requires it. Their sense of faithfulness to God demands it.

In my next post I’ll draw some conclusions about our “getting along” as a denomination in light of what I’ve explained in this and the last post.

Topics: PCUSA: End of? |

10 Responses to “Can We, Can We All Get Along? Section 3”

  1. Scott Williams Says:
    July 16th, 2008 at 10:00 am

    I’m curious. Are there many homosexual Christians (whether active, celibate, or just those with some inclinations towards the same sex) who are on this side of the debate? I do not have a good feel for where people stand on this issue and would be really curious to know this.
    I guess I’d also be curious to know if the stronger proponents of the pro-homosexual ordination are straight people pushing for justice for gays or gays themselves. Hmmm… any thoughts?

  2. Jennie Says:
    July 16th, 2008 at 10:15 am

    I would be interested in hearing from someone on the other side of the debate, as well. You have, on occasion, done an interview with someone on your blog. Would you be willing to do that here? It seems like you did a fair job of representing the other side but it would be interesting to hear it directly.

  3. kozak Says:
    July 16th, 2008 at 10:42 am

    In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America we are coming to a similar place. The latest sexuality “study” crammed down our esophagi starts by completely ignoring the Old Testament and Paul, and making an argument entirely from Jesus’s “acceptance” of all. As for the “God-given trait” argument, pedophilia is innate and incurable, but we expect them to abstain.

  4. C Larry Says:
    July 16th, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Scott - You last question is very pertinent. You may be interested to see this website:

    OneByOne is a result of PC (USA) renewal work. The website contains, among other things, multiple testimonies by men and women who have struggled with same-sex attraction.

    I may be wrong, but I would guess that no one from from OneByOne was invited to make any kind of presentation at the most recent General Assembly. In my experience, these folks are completely ignored in our discussions about human sexual ethics in the denomination.

  5. Matt Ferguson Says:
    July 16th, 2008 at 2:05 pm


    I know you spoke at GA (PFR Breakfast?). Is this material what you covered in that talk? If not, where can I read your talk? If so, will you put this all together in one longer copy, a more formatted copy, so it can be more widely circulated later on?

  6. Jeff Winter Says:
    July 16th, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    C Larry….I am the Chairman of OnebyOne. We have been around for 12 years working within the PCUSA and the greater Reformed Church. At this year’s GA nine ex-gay Presbyterians gave testimony before the committees that were debating the ordination of homosexuals issue as well as the redefinition of marriage. They did a heroic job sharing their testimony of transformation as well as expressing why the PCUSA should not change its ordination standard.
    C Larry, normally folks from either side of this issue are not invited to speak at a GA. Unfortunately, most of the commissioners have never heard an ex-gay testimony. They have only heard from the left of the church saying how good and holy homosexuality is. OnebyOne is a voice crying in the wilderness and very few want to hear what the Scripture has to say about this most divisive issue. Thank you for pointing out to Scott that OnebyOne exists. Where to you go to church?

  7. Sam Huffman Says:
    July 16th, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    More words…sound and fury signifying nothing.


    Stop writing and start DOING!

  8. Neil Says:
    July 16th, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    “Some gay advocates claim that the Bible doesn’t condemn sexual intimacy between loving, mature, committed persons of the same sex.”

    They lose a lot of credibility when they make that claim.

    100% of the verses addressing homosexual behavior denounce it as sin in the strongest possible terms.

    100% of the verses referencing God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.

    100% of the verses referencing parenting involve moms and dads with unique roles (or at least a set of male and female parents guiding the children).

    0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way or even hint at the acceptability of homosexual unions.

    I appreciate how charitable you have been with the pro-gay theology crowd. I would encourage you to consider a piece on how much the pro-gay folks overlap with those who are soft on many essentials of the faith: The exclusivity and deity of Jesus, the authority and reliability of the Bible, etc. In my experience there is a remarkable correlation.

    There are three commons ways pro-gay theologians make errors, namely by believing that:

    1. The Bible is either not the Word of God, or most parts of it aren’t.

    2. The Bible is the Word of God, but it doesn’t really say homosexual behavior is wrong.

    3. The Bible is the Word of God and does clearly and emphatically condemn gay behavior as sinful. However, the Holy Spirit has given additional revelations such that this behavior is now acceptable and the “new” sin is saying that homosexual behavior is sinful.

  9. Rick Says:
    July 16th, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    I am not Presbyterian so I just saw the OneByOne website for the first time. What a great ministry this is!
    As far as the ordination issue goes, I would have those in favor of homosexual ordination one question: Is there anything that would prevent an individual from becoming ordained?

  10. Neil Says:
    July 16th, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    fyi - the One by One website is (if you try other combinations you will be disappointed).


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